Post 121 regional champs

The River Falls American Legion Post 121 baseball team shows off its Class AA regional championship plaque after defeating New Richmond 11-5 in the regional title game Sunday afternoon at First National Bank of River Falls Field. Bob Burrows / Star-Observer photo

The goal for the River Falls Post 121 baseball team at the beginning of the summer was just to get better every day. That approach has earned the team a berth in the American Legion Class AA 19U State Tournament this weekend in Fort Atkinson.

River Falls swept last weekend’s regional tournament at First National Bank of River Falls Field, defeating Menomonie 12-2 Friday, Arcadia 1-0 in eight innings Saturday, and New Richmond 11-5 Sunday to qualify for state for the ninth straight season. Post 121 won the Class AA 19U state championship in 2011, 2015 and 2018.

Head coach Ryan Bishop said this year’s team has come a long way since the beginning of the season.

“We told the guys, we're really proud of the progress they've made this summer,” Bishop said. “Not just in the physical part of the game, but the mental and emotional part. To put it all together and play their best baseball at the end of the summer. “It's been really fun to watch that progress with such a young group.”

The best game of the weekend came Saturday, when River Falls pitcher Cayden Mueller shrugged off a four-hour rain delay to throw an eight-inning, two-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over Arcadia. Chase McQuade’s single chased Eli Condon home from second in the top of the eighth and Mueller recorded his 10th, 11th and 12th strikeouts of the game in the bottom of the inning to send Post 121 to the title game.

Mueller walked just one batter while throwing 103 pitches in the eight inning win, despite a four-hour delay between the fourth and fifth innings.

“Cayden Mueller did a fantastic job,” Bishop said. “He threw his heart out and kept his pitch count down through all eight innings. And then we got the big hit when we needed it. That makes for fun baseball.”

River Falls opened the tournament by scoring seven runs in the third inning and four in the fourth in a 12-2 victory Friday over Menomonie.

Brody Rudolph had two triples during the seven-run third inning and finished with three hits and Thatcher Anderson had three hits, including a three-run double, while Elijah Baker singled, doubled and drove in three runs. Mueller contributed two hits, including a double, while Condon, McQuade and Zach Cleveland drove in a run apiece.

Condon earned the pitching victory, allowing two runs, one earned, on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks in five innings of work.

McQuade had three hits, including a double, and drove in two runs in Sunday’s title game against New Richmond, and Rudolph and Henry Manninen drove in two runs apiece in River Falls’ 11-5 victory. Tyler Nelson earned the win on the mound, allowing five earned runs on nine hits with one strikeout and two walks in six innings of work.

Post 121 will take an 11-11 record into its first round state tournament game this Friday at Jones Field in Fort Atkinson against Rhinelander (21-3). Bishop said the team’s goal is to continue to get better every day.

“This isn't about being the best River Falls baseball team ever,” he said. “This is about being their best self and, competing at the highest level that they're capable of as a team. They took some good steps this summer, and we're very proud of them for doing that.”

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